Mepa approves Ramla l-Hamra destruction! - maltastar.com
Building of 23 villas with pool beneath Calypso Caves
Land lies in ODZ area despite government's pledges not to give more land for development
06 June 2007
The spectacular views from the Gozo Calypso Caves leading to the splendid Ramla l-Hamra Bay will be ruined by a tourist complex of 23 villas, with pools, as Mepa scandalously approved the development on Wednesday morning.
The new development lies clearly in an outside development zone despite claims by the developer that there will be only a re-development of the only existing villa known as the Ulysses Lodge.
This starkly contrast clear statements by Environment Minister George Pullicino, who back when the government opened stretches of untouched land for development, had said that no new development permits will be allowed outside development zones.
The Mepa board approved the development 10 votes against one. The Labour appointed member of the board Dr Joe Brincat was the sole vote against the approved villas with pools. The Nationalist Party member, MP Joseph Falzon voted in favour of the project.
Environmental organisations and Gozo’s Xaghra local council objected vociferously claiming that the proposed development will be much larger than the existing developed footprint – the Ulysses Lodge. But the developer is saying that the footprint will remain the same because the area is much wider than the Ulysses Lodge since the paths leading to the present, derailed, development are considered as disturbed land.
The Mepa case officer in charge said that the new development is only a bit larger than the footprint.
Also in this case, Mepa did not ask the developer to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the development. This is in breach with the EIA’s EU regulation, environmental NGO’s said at the hearing.
On this point Mepa said that it asked the developer to make a number of studies, including an archeological study, which found no particular archeological remains. Since this was not an EIA the studies are not made public.
The construction project will be targeting the slopes right beneath the Calypso Caves and will be reaching down to just 50 metres away from the boundary of two Natura 2000 sites.
The land approved for a tourist complex is practically completely surrounded by two Special Areas of Conservation of International Importance (SAC’s). Ramla l-Hamra and Ghajn Barrani slopes are two of 10 areas in Gozo specially selected by the EU to be protected and enhanced through the Natura 2000 programme.
Commenting after the vote, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar spokesperson Astrid Vella said that this project is clearly in an ODZ area as is another major development project in Gozo, Hondoq ir-Rummien.
”We are very disappointed… It is not true that the same footprint is being proposed for development, the new project is much bigger. We asked the board to check the footprint against the original plans, a request that was not granted,” said Ms Vella.
Gaia Foundation spokesperson Rudolph Ragonesi said that his organisation is disappointed, especially at the way the EIA process was waived. “This leaves little room for public consultation,” Dr Ragonesi said.
Alternattiva Demokratika also expressed its anger at the development. Dr Harry Vassallo, AD's chairperson said that this scandalous decision taken by the Mepa board will continue to undermine Mepa's credibility as the environmental regulator. This continues to prove that Mepa is weak with the strong and strong with the weak.
"Dr Vassallo added that it is even more evident that the decision taken by the government to scrap the Xaghra il-Hamra golf course was a ploy intended solely to greenwash the government's and Minister Pullicino's, dismal track record in environmental protection. Dr Vassallo continued by saying that, it is unacceptable that an EU Member State approves of such a development on such a site, without even conducting the required EIA."
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